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  • Nov11Wed

    Serve the Lord!

    A sermon for "Board Installation Sunday" November 11, 2020
    Filed Under:
    Pr. Sebastian

    First off, I’m not going to preach today on the American election. 

    That’ll get me into too much trouble. 

    It’s been a long week since Tuesday.

     

    Second, you may have noticed there isn’t a Gospel reading today, 

    which is a “big no-no” in Lutheran liturgy circles, 

    since if you are going to omit any reading from a worship service, 

    it’s not supposed to be the Gospel reading…the news about Jesus.

    However, today’s assigned Gospel text of the 10 Bridesmaids 

    is the foundation for the Bach Cantata that will be sung during worship 

    on First Advent, in 3 weeks,

    so I decided to postpone it until that date.

     

    Anyway, I’m of the firm Lutheran belief that the Gospel, 

    the Good news of God’s love, can be found in any book of the Bible, although I admit, 

    I was at first skeptical I’d find it in the Book of Joshua, 

    from which I’ll be preaching today. 

    Like the book of Revelation which I preached on last Sunday, 

    Joshua is also not a big favourite of mine, 

    with a lot of bloodshed and warfare, 

    and “God is on our side” mentality which lends itself well to US evangelicals but creeps me out a bit…or a lot.

     

    So today we’ll talk about something pretty tame, 

    the good old Biblical theme of covenant.

    Kinda boring, I know, but an essential part of our faith.

    And it’s neat that actually in today’s worship, 

    we have a practical example of a covenant, 

    with the Installation of the Board of Directors in a few minutes.

     

    What is a covenant, you may ask?

    It is an agreement where both parties make vows, 

    and agree to the terms of the relationship.

     

    In our installation of our Board of Directors, each member will vow:

    To uphold the Bylaws of our Church,

    To be faithful in serving,

    To be an example of faith active in love,

    And so on,

    Affirming these commitments with the vow: I will, with God’s help.

     

    And in turn, the congregation, the assembly, 

    promises that it will support its elected leaders, 

    and share in the mutual, two-way, ministry in this church.

     

    Through this installation, this public covenanting, 

    a basic relationship is established between the members of the congregation and its leadership, 

    and a common expectation of trust and of good will, 

    that we are moving forward as a community of faith here at St. Matthews, 

    for the sake of the gospel, and the best possible future of our congregation.

     

    Such a covenant, or a treaty between congregation and leadership,

    seems boring at first, but it is essential for good functioning of the entire  church, and forms the basis for good choices, 

    both on the part of the Board Members, 

    as well as on the part of the congregational members. 

    We’re in this together, is what the Board is saying, 

    and we’re trying to do our best, as volunteers, with God’s help.

    Individually, as Jim, Bob, Kim, John and others, 

    but also as a group.

     

    ——

    So now that we have a concrete example of a covenant,

    We dive into the reading from the book of Joshua.

     

    Now when we think of the man Joshua, 

    (we probably first turn to the story of the fall of Jericho and its walls that came tumbling down).

    But actually today’s event, which brings to a conclusion the whole book, 

    is even more important overall in the history of Israel.

     

    In today’s text, Joshua, the successor to Moses and leader of the Israelites,

    Brings all the elders and leaders of the various clans together (to Schechem),

    For a covenant, a treaty, or agreement.

    Which will set the terms of the relationship between God, the Lord,
    and the people, Israel. 

     

    Joshua begins his speech by describing the history of faith, 

    from their forefather Abraham all the way to Moses and then to Joshua, 

    How God took care of his people ,

    The nature of God’s relationship with God’s people,

    How God delivered Israel out of Egyptian slavery,

    How God sustained Israel through the wilderness wanderings, 

    and the re-entry into Canaan,

    How God was upholding God’s side of the covenant.

     

    And then Joshua asked the big question:

    What is your response, now, people of Israel?

    Now that you reflect on who God is and what God has done,

    You have the floor now. What will you do?

    —-

    Will you serve God? And forget all other gods?

    Will you serve the Lord, and stop worshipping other idols?

     

    Will you serve him in sincerity and faithfulness?

     

    Before Joshua receives a response, he leads by example and answers his own question himself:

    but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (V15)

    Perhaps one of the most famous verses from the entire book.

     

    And Israel’s response?

    “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord,

    For the Lord brought us out Egypt,

    and showed us signs

    He protected and delivered us!”

     

    And Joshua reminds them, that it is not easy to follow God,

    It is no small task to affirm this covenant,

    They shouldn’t make this vow lightly, because God is holy and zealous!

     

    But the Israelites are steadfast and affirm:

    “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”

     

     

    —-

    Now, Joshua’s question, which  he poses to the Israelites,

    He might as well pose to us today.

     

    People listening to this sermon today,

    Do you choose to serve God?

    Do you promise to put away your idols, your false gods, 

    And prioritize God as number one in your lives?

     

    We all need to make own choice, with God’s help and God’s grace.

    We cannot rely on our parents, or our grandparents.

    Because push comes to shove, when the going gets tough,

    When other idols come creeping up, other distractions and priorities,

    At the end of the day, only we ourselves can choose to serve God, 

    our Lord,

    And make this a loyalty of our Heart, and not just empty words!

    A Second-hand belief in God will fail in a crisis.

    And so this is not some abstract theory but a concrete choice, 

    we must face every single day of our lives.

    Will you serve the Lord?

    A burst of enthusiasm, of some single “come to Jesus” moment 

    is not enough,

    We’re talking about lifelong, daily commitment here.

    Daily Discipleship, daily following, daily serving.

     

    Will your choose the enduring and eternal OR the temporal and fleeting?

    For it is not easy to serve the Lord!

     

    What are the false gods that stand in our way,

    What things do we love more than God?

    Is it sleeping, gambling, Netflix, 

    or consumerism, prestige, our phones,

    Our job security, our house or our grandchildren…?

     

    Do we even have idols here at St. Matthews: 

    like the so-called “treasures of St. Matts”:

    Are they furnishings or pews? 

    Are they ways of doing worship, Christmas Eve traditions,

    Or specific images of God?

     

    One concrete way of rejecting false gods and serving the Lord and making those daily choices for God, is to follow our National Bishop Susan’s Call to Daily Discipleship.

    Last year had a focus on daily prayer.

    This year, there is a focus on regular Bible reading.

    Will you serve the Lord this year by cracking open your Bible more often?

    Maybe a new Study Bible could be your Christmas present 

    if you’ve outworn or outgrown your Sunday school edition.

     

    Another way is to recognize how in worship we proclaim that “we will serve the Lord”. This happens most obviously in the Creed and the Confession and Forgiveness and the Lord’s Prayer, but also more subtly in the hymns, the prayers of intercession and even the fact that you are not walking out of my sermon!

    —-

     

    God has brought us through this COVID wilderness thus far, 

    through the election campaign to the South of us,

    We’re still standing.

    God has delivered us!

     

    And we can be thankful for what has God done for us, 

    in the months and years past,

    As we do our best to serve the Lord, 

    and live out this relationship with a God who loves us and cares for us, now and always. Amen.

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